Flooding prompts evacuations in 4 First Nations, states of emergency in Manitoba communities

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Flooding prompts evacuations in 4 First Nations, states of emergency in Manitoba communities

Floodwaters rising throughout southern and central Manitoba have now forced nearly 200 people out of their homes in four First Nations in Manitoba, the province said Monday afternoon.

In its latest flood update, provincial officials said 190 residents of Long Plain First Nation, Peguis First Nation, Sioux Valley Dakota Nation and Fisher River Cree Nation had to leave their homes this season. Four residents in the area of Petersfield, Man., also left their homes due to flooding over the weekend.

The Canadian Red Cross is working with Peguis and Sioux Valley, provincial officials said.

Peguis Chief Glenn Hudson said 135 residents are in Winnipeg on Monday, and some 300 houses are affected directly or indirectly in the community about 180 kilometres north of Winnipeg.

Sioux Valley flood co-ordinator Nathan Hall said 12 houses along a creek were evacuated Sunday evening as high water threatened a bridge used to access the homes. The 36 evacuees are staying in Brandon, Man.

Chief Vince Tacan said the evacuations took place overnight during a six-hour span.

"When I left the community yesterday for meetings … everything looked OK. We thought the water might come up a little bit, but not that much," Tacan said.

"But within that six-hour time frame the water came over the banks of the Assiniboine [River] and then the water started to back up on the creek."

By early Monday afternoon, the water had dropped around four feet, Tacan said, but the community is expecting levels to rise again with the warm weather throughout the day.

Tacan said evacuations due to flooding are fairly common on the First Nation. The most recent was two years ago, when 90 people had to leave their homes, but Tacan said he didn't expect such a high number this year.

St. Lazare preparing for problems

Floodwater is ebbing in some communities, including Carman, Man., but provincial officials said Monday others may still have trouble ahead.

"It's a little early to breathe a sigh of relief yet, but nature has been co-operative in diminishing the likelihood of floods in a number of our water basins," Premier Brian Pallister told the legislature.

"Local people seem to have things in hand ... and I know that if needed, Manitobans, as they always have, will rise to the challenge."

Local states of emergency have been declared in 10 Manitoba communities: Prairie Lakes, Grassland, Brenda-Waskada, Dufferin, Grey, La Broquerie and Two Borders and the Town of Carman, as well as Peguis First Nation and Sioux Valley Dakota Nation.

The Town of Swan River also declared a local state of emergency over the weekend but lifted it on Monday morning according to the town's website.

The culprit in many cases is ice jams, a flood update from the province said Monday. The jams can happen when run-off begins before river ice melts, and the flooding they cause is difficult to predict, the province said.

A flood watch has been issued for the lower Assiniboine River from Portage la Prairie to Headingley due to possible ice issues.

High water levels on the Assiniboine and ice jams on the Qu'Appelle River have put three properties at risk of flooding in and around St. Lazare, about 100 kilometres southeast of Brandon in southwestern Manitoba.

The provincial government is sending equipment to St. Lazare to break up the ice and get water flowing near the Qu'Appelle Bridge, and aqua dams will be set up in the area Monday evening, said Barry Lowes, reeve of the rural municipality of Ellice-Archie.

"They're going to try and break the ice and get it flowing," Lowes said.

"That's the only reason it's building up there, because there's very little water coming from the west now. It's slowed right down."

Lowes said the at-risk properties, which are not covered by a dike that protects the town, were not flooded as of midday Monday. He hopes the aqua dams will keep them protected.

Sandbags are ready to go if needed, he added.

The Red River Floodway and Portage Diversion were opened Friday, lowering downstream levels on the Red and Assiniboine rivers and reducing flood risks in Winnipeg.

Both rivers remain bloated, with water more than 19 feet above normal winter ice levels at James Avenue in Winnipeg, but flood fears in the city have receded in recent days.

Two dozen homes were sandbagged as of Saturday and the City of Winnipeg has about 60,000 more sandbags prepared if needed.

Carman Mayor Bob Mitchell said the community is facing the worst flooding he's seen in more than 35 years, with a massive ice jam on the Boyne River east of the community causing problems.

As of mid-afternoon Monday, Mitchell said the water had dropped slightly, but he was concerned levels would rise again when the jam starts to move.